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Attn. Indie Authors & Illustrators: Why it helps to hire an illustrator/designer (or become one!) rather than just an illustrator.

Updated: Feb 23

Read this if you are:

  1. An indie author in search of an illustrator (but not totally sure where to start)

  2. An illustrator who would like to sustain a full-time career making books.

Self-publishing an indie book requires a significant investment of time and money… Finding the right illustrator for your project is just the beginning—you need a team of people who will help with your book’s design, formatting, publishing and marketing, too!

But what if you could save time, money and headaches by partnering with an illustrator who is ALSO a designer, who can assist you with a majority of these tasks?!?

Here are TEN ways that an illustrator WHO IS ALSO A DESIGNER can benefit your indie book & publishing strategy.


Some illustrators offer this service along with illustration as a package, which can save indie authors time and money. What is book design? Doing the formatting and layout of all text and graphics for your book--cover to cover. A tandem illustrator-designer can plan the design simultaneously with the artwork.

The benefit of this is creating a cohesive look from the get-go, where art and words seamlessly flow together in a manner that leads to exciting page turns and more memorable moments.

When you interview your illustrator, ask them if they know the design basics of typography, layout and effective pagination. They’ll also need to be up to speed with programs like Adobe InDesign to set the title up for publishing. Are they familiar with how to meet printing specifications for bleed and safety margins, page count, spine text and back matter, etc.

(Bonus tip for authors and illustrators: Make a habit out of reading lots of picture books, or mentor texts from whichever genre you’re in, so that you can learn what’s common practice and what sells.)


Many indie authors need other materials to stock up their booth at the fair, or to offer as mailing list incentives on their websites, etc. Some even decide to make a coloring book version of their book(s) and sell it on amazon. Your illustrations may need a little tweaking to make them into effective coloring pages for a young demographic, but when illustrators have these skills and sensibilities, its a no-brainer for authors and an add-value. I’m no sales expert, but the psychology of buying dictates that customers want to see variety of offerings and might pass you buy if you’re only selling one thing. Not to mention multiple products can help KEEP customers in the long term.

If you like the cute coloring page above, check out for more about his books! I've illustrated and designed all 4 books in his series: The Adventures of Cray on the Bay & the 4th one will be coming out soon.


Here’s another offering that illustrators with a little design knowledge can easily accommodate.

A little something free, like a sticker or bookmark, will brighten kids’ days, and help authors market/sell.


Negotiating a license with your illustrator that includes commercial rights for merchandise can open the doors for future sales… Authors should consider selling fine art prints from their story, or putting the artwork on T-Shirts/ accessories… A skilled illustrator-designer can help create the merch by sourcing little bits of the artwork and optimizing them for each product. While you may pay more up front to have the commercial rights to sell the art, you stand to make a lot more profit in the long term by selling products with your books.

Pictured here: merch created for Cathy Stenquist, author of FOREVER HOME.

Bonus Tip: Authors who don’t want to worry about fulfillment can consider services like Printify which can integrate with their e-commerce [store] page... (not a sponsor)


Many indie authors need a design for their imprint (your indie publishing name), which gives authenticity to their spine text and pub page, and even their website/promo materials.

Illustrator-designers who know how to make vectors can provide you with a scaleable image that can go on anything.


Sure, anyone can make a basic website on WIX or Square Space, but not everyone can make them look LEGIT. Your illustrator-designer can make you a website that reflects your book or your imprint/brand.

(This is a good place to feature free resources for teachers and parents—see next…)


Do you plan on doing school visits? Illustrator-designers can help you design a lesson plan or at the very least, can format the materials artfully, so you look as professional as possible when approaching schools. How about more fun freebies for families like printable activities, discussion questions, etc.?

(click the pic for a free, printable matching game!)


Keeping up with socials is hard on an indie author. An illustrator-designer can make your life easier by making you memes, behind the scenes photos and time-lapses of the illustration, posters and flyers for your events, and A+ CONTENT for Amazon etc. I recently helped a client by making a pitch deck (illustrated slide show) for potential brand partners. I have made a peek-a-boo screen for author events, too (pictured below).


For the indie author who is a strategist and wants to make a read aloud before their book is even on shelves, have your illustrator-designer mock-up the spreads in 3D.

Here’s an example of a read-aloud I created for Whole Kid Books… Authors Katie Dalton & Craig Friedman did their own voiceover and video editing, however I also have a small recording studio set up where I can offer these services if my clients need the assistence.

PS: Join the RYAN GOES MOUNTAIN BIKING launch team!

If you liked the read-aloud video, this book is launching soon and you can get a free copy of the e-book by joining the authors' launch team! It’s REALLY simple:

Fill out the Google form to join the launch team:

In a few weeks, the authors will email you a link to the e-book (it’ll take about 4 minutes to read!) with clear instructions on leaving an Amazon review.

Thank you for supporting an indie author team by boosting visibility for their launch!


It’s overwhelming for indie authors to figure out how to self-publish. There are a million little decisions along the way… If your illustrator-designer can help with some of them, it really makes a difference. Consider all the different print on-demand services and what they require for formatting, entering meta data, and finding 3rd-party printers to order in bulk from and increase your sales margins.

An illustrator-designer who is versed in self-publishing might know where to direct you to purchase an ISBN for each edition of your book, and where to generate a barcode. Maybe you need your CIP data formatted for your pub page so that it’s optimized for libraries?! Self-pub is COMPLICATED and the right collaborator can make it less cumbersome for you.

CONCLUDING NOTES for the Illustrators:

The technical knowledge and design sense required to offer these services confidently can be tedious to gain, but you don’t have to offer everything at once. Gradually add on services as you feel confident. (It took me three years to learn and implement all of these, and the majority of my clients hire me for most of these services in addition to illustration)

As you gain skills, consider offering your client an extreme discount the first time you do it, so you can learn ON THE JOB with a client who is flexible. **Just be upfront with them about your skill level and about what you intend to do!**

Like I’ve said with every item on this list: the more you can lift off of your client’s plate, the more they can enjoy themselves chasing their dreams, and save a bunch of money, too — it’s more expensive and time consuming for them to hire a bunch of people to do all these jobs.

The benefit for you as an illustrator goes beyond just making more money - It allows you to block off more of your calendar ahead of time, which means more time spent focusing on each client instead of chasing around a bunch of short-term jobs. It allows you to develop great relationships with them, making the whole experience more fulfilling. My clients have become friends that keep in touch and keep wanting to collaborate. It feels amazing to see how excited they are at every step of the way, and helping them make a dream come true.


Attention Authors:

Interested in working together? Email me at or click the button below!

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